Any horror buff who grew up in the era of VHS will adore Scare Package, a horror-comedy anthology that pays tribute to the vibe of the '80s and early '90s. The concept is clever: each of the eight stories (including the wraparound) skewers a trope of the genre. A couple do so outright, while others do it with more subtlety. As is almost always the case with anthologies, some tales are stronger than others. There are, however, no duds here. It's available on the Shudder streaming service.
The framing device is set in a video store called “Rad Chad's Horror Emporium,” where the owner, Chad (Jeremy King), schools new employee Hawn (Hawn Tran) in the ways of fright films. Each of the subsequent stories is a movie on one of the VHS tapes or DVDs found in the store. The first, “Cold Open,” sets the tone. Directed by Emily Hagins (My Sucky Teen Romance), it follows an insignificant horror movie background character who longs to move into the forefront. It's a witty tribute to expendable players.
Another standout is “One Time in the Woods,” which takes the cliché of a terrifying camping trip to hilariously gory new levels. The blood, guts, and slime flow as if being shot out of a fire hose, but the tongue-in-cheek nature keeps it from being stomach-churning. “Girls Night Out of Body” is a cool feminist tale about three female friends who undergo a transition after sharing a possessed lollipop. My favorite of the bunch is “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill.” It finds a female heroine and some friends repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) attempting to kill a Jason Voorhees-like masked slasher who is pre-determined to return for a sequel. I love the way this one pokes fun at villains who refuse to die when there's more money to be made.
The last story, “Horror Hypothesis,” is the most visible example of Scare Package's premise. There's a cool surprise in here, so not much should be said about the tale, other than that it does a nice Cabin in the Woods-y job of deconstructing the horror genre. That leads to some big laughs.
Scare Package's other directors are Chris McInroy, Hilary and Courtney Andujar, Noah Segan, Baron Vaughn, Anthony Cousins, and Aaron B. Koontz. You can feel their love for horror shining through in every scene. Despite coming from different makers and tackling different ideas, the individual stories mesh well together, so that the picture as a whole has a sense of cohesion. This anthology is not a bunch of disparate mini-movies shoved together. Everyone was clearly on the same page in terms of what Scare Package should accomplish.
In terms of technical elements, the movie looks great, with a visual style reminiscent of the period. Maybe the highest compliment I can pay to the film is to say that it made me miss those days of wandering through the horror section of the video store and walking out with something enticingly gruesome in my hands.
out of four
Scare Package is unrated, but contains adult language and strong bloody/gory violence. The running time is 1 hour and 43 minutes.